Was Jesus born in Jerusalem?


by Shawn Brasseaux

No! To say Christ was born in Jerusalem is to misread Luke chapter 2.

Observe the following: “[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. [2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) [3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: ) [5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. [6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. [7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Submitting to the Roman Emperor, Joseph and pregnant Mary left Nazareth of Galilee (northern Israel, cf. Luke 1:26) and traveled to southern Israel for a taxation or census. Being of David’s family (Matthew 1:1,6,17,20; Luke 1:27,32,69; Luke 3:31), they went to David’s hometown, Bethlehem of Judaea (1 Samuel 16:1-18). Genealogical or family records were kept in ancestral birthplaces. While Joseph and Mary are living in Bethlehem of Judaea, Mary gives birth to Jesus. The angel of the Lord appears to shepherds out in the field, informing them of Messiah’s arrival. He says, in part: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). What is this “city of David” here?

It is true the Old Testament applies the title “city of David” to Jerusalem, and this was because it was King David’s capital city (2 Kings 9:28; 2 Kings 14:20). Here in Luke chapter 2, however, the “city of David” can only mean Bethlehem of Judaea, for it was David’s hometown. Luke already restricted the meaning in verse 4: “the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.” Only if we are careless will we insert Jerusalem into Luke 2, verses 4 and 11. Moreover, the shepherds correctly interpret “city of David” (verse 11) as Bethlehem of Judaea, for that is precisely where they intend to go! Read verse 15: “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

At this point, we must expose the fact the Book of Mormon differs significantly from the Holy Bible. In Alma 7:10 of the Book of Mormon, we read: “And, behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.” The Book of Mormon is wrong. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. Joseph Smith, while writing the Book of Mormon, evidently misread Luke!

This by no means should be considered “splitting hairs,” “nitpicky,” or “making something out of nothing.” If we do not specify Christ was born in Bethlehem, or Bethlehem Judah/Judaea/Ephratah, we are failing to make the connection of prophecy being fulfilled. He would be born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, so to say Jerusalem is to deny fulfilled prophecy (or make it harder to realize prophecy was fulfilled). Over 700 years prior, Micah 5:2 had foretold: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Go over to Matthew chapter 2: “[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, [2] Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. [3] When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. [4] And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. [5] And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, [6] And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” The name “Bethlehem” in Hebrew means “house of bread,” so it is only fitting the “Bread of Life” (John chapter 6) be born here!

Bethlehem Judah (also known as Bethlehem Ephratah and Bethlehem of Judaea) is approximately 5 or 6 miles (8 to 10 kilometers) almost due south of Jerusalem. It is not to be confused with another Bethlehem, northern Israel, near Galilee in the territory of the tribe of Zebulon (Joshua 19:15)—and Bethlehem Judah/Ephratah/Judaea is not to be confused with Jerusalem either!

Also see:
» Was Jesus born on the 25th of December?
» How can Luke 2:1 report “all the world” was subject to Caesar Augustus?
» Is there an historical mistake in Luke 2:1-2?